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Visiting Aida Makoto’s Exhibition

November 26, 2012

While I was in Tokyo last weekend, I took the chance to visit the Mori Arts Center which currently exhibits around 100 works by Aida Makoto under the title “Monument for Nothing” (although the Japanese title is 天才でごめんなさい – tensai de gomen nasai or “Sorry for being a genius”). The video below shows an interview with Aida which gives a good impression on his person and art:

As shown in the video, two main topics of Aida’s work are salarymen and 美少女 (bi-shojo, pretty, young girls) as he sees them as symbolic for many problems in contemporary Japanese society and he seems to be constantly looking for ways to eliminate either of them. For example, one work is split into two parts like a page in a comic book. The upper part shows three salarymen gulping down an energy drink, each accompanied by a slogan praising the hard-working salarymen who support Japan’s economy. It looks just like a typical advertisement for energy drinks. Yet, the lower part shows the same salarymen dead on the ground. It turns out that the energy drinks were poisoned and that’s Aida’s suggestion how to eliminate salarymen. The bi-shojo, on the other hand,  have to suffer a lot in Aida’s work, too, but are often depicted as heroines. They commit suicide rather than be killed. Anyways, they have to die as well…

I really liked Aida’s critical stance and the irony with which he depicts severe problems, although there are also some harder digestible works like his “DOG”-series. This series and other works were displayed in a separate room marked as being suitable for 18 years old or older, but I didn’t really understand the rating policy behind this. For example, what’s the difference between “Blender” in which young girls turn into a bloody juice and the “Mimi-chan”-series, which shows several ways how to eat “edible artificial girls”? Personally, I found the former more disturbing than the latter, but the “Mimi-chan”-series was kept in the 18+ room while “Blender” was not. Why?? I thought the “Mimi-chan”-series were a wonderfully ironic way to criticize how we take eating fish and meat for granted, always forgetting that those we’re living creatures, too. Imagine, someone would invent an artificial creature that offers meat, but happens to look like a young girl. Would it matter? Would we stop eating fish if it looked like girls? Where do we draw the line and why?

But what was maybe even more surprising for me was the fact that there were so many small children at the exhibition. Especially if you consider the unclear lines between works deemed appropriate for younger visitors and those rated 18+. One boy, maybe 5 years old, was watching Aida’s introductory video to his “Assisted Suicide Machine” and asked his mother what the man (Aida) was doing. She answered he was trying to commit suicide, but the noose was constructed in such a way that it would collapse under his weight. Well, while that’s a correct answer to the boy’s question I wondered, whether he understood what he was seeing and what he was thinking. What would this boy think about “Blender”? Or about any of the works showing cut out intestines or decapitated heads? What will the next picture look like this little boy draws? …

Well, I don’t know much about art and I just wanted to share my main impressions on this visit so I will stop here. You can find a much more detailed (and longer) article on Aida Makoto and his work here. But be warned of shocking images.

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